$28 million to fund Boston Common renovation

By Sasha Zirin

With plans being finalized, renovations to the Boston Common’s entrances and borders, upgraded amenities for visitors, and improved recreational areas like the tennis courts and Frog Pond are underway.

Working with a $28 million budget—the highest amount of funding ever devoted to the Common by the city—The Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Friends of the Public Garden organization, Weston and Sampson Design Studio, and KZLA Cultural Landscapes hope to “establish the best strategy,” for the park, according to the Boston Common Master Plan website.

The plan includes improving the Common’s infrastructure and amenities and will feature the construction of a basketball court, a dog park, and an expanded visitors center.

There’s also an aim to preserve and sustain the cultural and historical landscape with a tree-planting initiative, the building of the 1965 Freedom Plaza, and a memorial honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King entitled “The Embrace.”

However, Bostonians are on the fence about the urgency of upgrading the Commons. One resident said that, though he didn’t know much about the project, he felt the allocation of such a large amount of money was unnecessary and wasteful.

“The priorities are a little misplaced if [Boston has] all that money,” he said.

The Common is cleaner and nicer than parks in other cities he’s visited, he continued, and believes the city should prioritize improving issues within the city–like repaving the roads–rather than making “radical changes” to the Common.

He disagrees with the usage of the $28 million and believes Mayor Michelle Wu is trying to fix things that aren’t broken.

Boston resident Jason Gavin, however, commented on the aging of the Common’s features. Having grown up by the Common, Jason said he has spent a lot of time there over his lifetime. Gavin only recalled seeing renovations to the park once work began on “The Embrace” and the 1965 Freedom Plaza. 

“[The Brewer] fountain is ugly. I think it’s atrocious … it’s kind of reminiscent of everything around it,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything happening in the last 50 years.” 

Fellow lifelong Boston resident Nick Shea said small upgrades feel more necessary than big changes. 

“[The Common] could use some improvements, but the layout is nice,” Shea said. “The benches are uncomfortable. Little things like that … I don’t know what’s wrong with the park [besides those].”

However, according to The Friends of the Public Garden’s piece on the Boston Common, the Common was experiencing neglect by the 1970s, causing it to suffer. 

“Public-private efforts have brought notable improvements,” they wrote, “including new fencing, a refurbished playground, [and] a rejuvenated Frog Pond.”

Like other residents, Shea agreed the multi-million dollar budget could go toward other things. 

“[They’re adding] entrance[s] to the train [but] what about the train? That would better serve the city of Boston, to have a better-running train,” he said. “The park’s fine.”

The BCMP says that they are devoted to reservation and sustainability of the Common and why people love it.

“[The Common] serves an enormous range of people,” the summary continued. “Thus, a wide range of viewpoints, needs, and desires are woven throughout all these recommendations.”

The Boston Common Master Plan began laying out plans in 2019, and they are currently being finalized. There’s currently no set start date for the renovations.